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It is a pleasure to follow Andrew George, who has become a rather lonely figure on the Government Benches. Last week, he was the only Liberal Democrat who was not defending the indefensible, for which I pay him credit. At least he is prepared to come to the Chamber and argue against the measures in the Budget that will affect his very poor community in Cornwall, unlike some of his colleagues, who make comments in the press, but are absent from debates on the Finance Bill. I hope that on at least one or two occasions he will join us in the Lobby to stop the effects of the measure on his constituents and mine, although I know that he feels uncomfortable about voting against the coalition.
In 2008, in the run-up to the general election, bashing the bankers was something that everyone wanted to do. It is strange that we now have a Finance Bill that will reward them. There has been a change in the past few months from the stance that the Deputy Prime Minister adopted on
"a gun to the head" of the country.
I support the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend Chris Leslie and by my right hon. Friend Stephen Timms, and the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for St Ives. I wish to deal with the effect on other sectors, which that amendment raises. We have discussed the banking sector a great deal, but it is important to look at other sectors, too. There has been a feeding frenzy, which suggested more or less that the previous Government got things wrong, and that we should be penalising the banking sector. That view was reinforced by the Prime Minister himself who, when he was in opposition, said on Channel 4 in December 2008 that
"more senior bankers should be sent to prison."
On another occasion, he should that they should do voluntary work rather than earn large bonuses in the City. The Conservative party went very quiet at the election, possibly because, as the Deputy Prime Minister said-and I agree with him-it is
"completely in hock to the City".
We have seen that position defended tonight.
A number of banks have clearly made huge profits. Barclays, as has been mentioned, had a 92% increase in profits in 2009, and stand at £11.6 billion. The Royal Bank of Scotland-remember them?-paid its investment bankers £1.3 billion in bonuses, despite making just £1 billion in profit. Lloyds has made a profit of up to £1 billion. The proposals in the Finance Bill to reduce corporation tax rewards the banks for the mess they got us into, and do not acknowledge the fact that the individuals in question have been carrying on regardless, even though, as several hon. Members have said, the people who have suffered will have their services cut. The members of the public who are the victims are somehow to blame for the financial mess that we are in.
I do not understand how-well, I can, because they are called Conservatives-in the lead-up to the election, people can speak tough words against the banking sector, but one of the first things they do is to reduce corporation tax and reward the individuals who got us into the mess in the first place. Those same Conservatives-this was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East-opposed all the measures that we took not only to ensure that the banking sector did not collapse but to protect the British economy.
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